CSPI urges Congress to support fruit and vegetable benefits for people with low incomes in the 2023 Farm Bill

A woman selecting a red bell pepper

sydney Rae - unplash.com.

Statement of Cassie Harrison-Ramos, Senior Policy Associate

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) supports the GusNIP Expansion Act of 2023. This legislation would strengthen access to the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), which provides extra financial resources for fruits and vegetables to people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  

SNAP is a powerful tool to stave off hunger and reduce poverty, but over 60 percent of SNAP participants report cost as a barrier to a healthy diet. Even though the SNAP benefit amount was re-evaluated and updated in 2021, findings show that the modest benefit increase did not change dietary patterns amidst rising food costs. GusNIP incentives give SNAP participants additional purchasing power for fruits and vegetables, and participants in the program report eating more fruits and vegetables per day than the average American. Eating fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of diet-related diseases, but people with lower incomes have additional difficulties consuming the recommended amounts compared to the rest of the population due to cost and availability of produce. 

The bill addresses opportunities to improve the reach of GusNIP. For example, GusNIP grants are not equitably available across all states since the program requires grantees to match funds from the federal government, which can be burdensome for non-profit organizations and state and local government agencies. The legislation would decrease the amount of matched funds grantees are required to contribute to GusNIP fruit and vegetable incentive programs. The legislation would establish cooperative agreements between federal and state agencies to expand incentives to a variety of stores, including independently owned retailers and farmers markets. It would also expand fruit and vegetable access to income-eligible people who have or are at risk of developing diet-related diseases through the GusNIP produce prescription program, which aims to improve dietary health, increase food security, and reduce healthcare use and cost. 

CSPI envisions a healthy population with reduced impact and burden of preventable diseases and an equitable food system that makes healthy, sustainable food accessible to all. We support this bill because it bolsters access to affordable fruits and vegetables, helps people improve their diets, and highlights the important work of farmers and independent stores. We thank Representatives Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Dan Kildee (D-MI) for sponsoring this legislation.

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